Preached by Guest, Erin Teal Littlestar
March 15, 2015
How does God taste?
When Julia invited me to come talk with you about experiencing God through our sense of taste… I admit I got excited. The concept itself it a bit… erotic… no?
There is no more intimate sense than that of TASTE. Even in Touch there is a You and a ME… but Taste requires total intimacy, a consuming of something, or someone. When we taste God, we take him into our bodies, allow God to become us, and for us to come into God.
For me, God tastes like a perfectly ripe peach, so juicy that it falls from the corners of my lips and drips it’s sweetness down the length of my forearms. God tastes like my beloved’s skin, salty and warm and wet.
So… are you uncomfortable yet? It’s ok if you are. ☺ We don’t often talk about pleasure in church. And certainly not sex. And let’s be clear, when I say SEX- I am talking about that varied and intimate experience of physical + emotional connection of consenting adults.
Jesus’ followers were uncomfortable with this conversation too. In the text we just read in John, Jesus said that we must eat his body and drink his blood, so that he will abide in us, and us in him. This is perhaps the most deeply intimate and confronting imagery in Jesus’ teachings… so much so that many of his followers leave. They are uncomfortable, put off, perhaps even angry.
What is it about intimacy and pleasure that is so shameful to us humans? In Genesis, we see Adam and Eve, naked and unashamed, frolicking in a delicious garden of edible delights. In my version of the story, Adam feeds Eve the juiciest fruits, and they have wild and uninhibited sex in every corner of the Garden, becoming flesh of each other’s flesh, and with joyous gratitude enjoying the magical + wondrous bodies God has given them.
The eating from the Tree of Good + Evil is the Birth of Shame. Suddenly, Adam is aware of his own nakedness and hides from God. I imagine it is around this time that Eve begins bemoaning the size of her thighs and limiting her diet to only the low-carb fruits of the garden.
Because of the shame, the connection between each other and God becomes distant. They leave the garden of pleasure and focus instead on their basic survival. Hard work, raising children, just trying to make it through the day without killing someone. (Spoiler alert: Cain does not succeed at this last part.)
Inevitably, their sex life suffers. It becomes boring and loveless. Eventually they forget to have sex at all. Why bother? Working in the fields all day is so exhausting. They barely have the energy to get food on the table each night, much less enjoy it. Meals are eaten separately, on the run, and food is treated as fuel to get them back to work. The idea of pleasure is a long forgotten memory, from a time when they lived in God, and God lived in them.
Our sense of taste, and our capacity for pleasure, is a precious gift from a God from who loves us. A God whose love is wild and reckless. Who, without cause, made two of the most necessary parts of human survival- food and sex- deeply enjoyable, and in that enjoyment we have access to our Divinity.
And what have we done with that generous gift? God took great pleasure in creating every fiber of our body + being, making sure that this life experience could be filled with joy + delight. From love, God has given us a beautiful present… and we have hidden it away.
We have shamed it, avoided it, controlled it, degraded it, manipulated it, and used it for power over others. Sometimes it is far less malicious… sometimes we have simply put away our pleasure, tucked it away in the back of a closet, believing it no longer serves us or is meant for us. When someone gives you a diamond ring, you don’t hide it in the broom closet! It dishonors the giver, as much as the receiver.
As a society, we have heaped shame + guilt on top of both delicious gifts of food and sex, . Aisles of “guilt-free” snack foods that taste like cardboard line our grocery store shelves, suggesting that the way to blamelessness is through denying ourselves. Of course, if you’ve noticed, the advent of processed, low-calorie “diet” foods was also the moment our nation created an obesity crisis.
We sold our soul to the promise of convenience and a smaller waistline, only to replace the real, true food of God’s giving with blood pressure medicine, anti-depressants, and diet pills. We genetically modified our perfect food to produce more and more with less of our effort, only to discover that our farmers have become slaves to feeding the ever changing, and more expensive, monster.
The devastating punchline, of course, is that while we produce more food than ever, there is more hunger worldwide than ever before. Our desecration has, as Wendell Berry reminds us, condemned us to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want.
The same could be said of the gift of pleasure in sex. As individuals, we mostly get how delicious and intimately connected sex is. But as a society, we treat it like it’s an unnatural, secret shame, and an enemy that must be vanquished. Particularly in our movie industry, where we get most of our stories about how life “should be”, films with horrific violence are treated with far less scrutiny than those showing pleasure in sex, particularly if it a woman’s pleasure… and heaven forbid we should see any normal, naked body parts. It feels like we are Adam in the garden, hiding our nakedness from God… as though God didn’t knit every part of us together by her own hand!
But denying and shaming this gift of pleasure, particularly through our sense of taste, denies us of the very thing we want the most. To be one with God. To know and feel that God abides in us, and us in God.
Human pleasure, known through each of our senses, is the embodied experience of the Holy Spirit.
If you want to know God, taste God. Taste him in everything that passes your lips.
Each Sunday, I make a perfectly golden roast chicken supper. The chicken was raised + harvested with care, dressed + cooked with reverence and skill, tasted with gratitude, devoured with squeals of delight, and shared with people I love (even if I’m eating alone).
This ritual is a sacrament. As we eat, we break the body and shed the blood of God’s creation. We honor the sacrifice of Jesus and acknowledge the very essence of being human.
Jesus did not suffer and die so that we could suffer through life and survive until we, too, die. God broke the body and shed the blood of his most perfect creation so we could LIVE, and LIVE ABUNDANTLY. To Live in pleasure and intimacy, with God and with each other.
We are forgiven. And God is beckoning us HOME to the Gar